Ask Matt: Legacy of ‘Saul,’ Future of ‘Warrior,’ ‘Will & Grace’ and More
Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic (also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”) Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape.
One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on most Tuesdays and Fridays.
Will Saul Live On in the Memory Like Walter White?
Question: In light of the upcoming fifth season of Better Call Saul and the announcement that its sixth season in 2021 will be its last, what do you think the show’s legacy will ultimately be? Though it will likely always live in the shadow of the brilliant Breaking Bad series from which it was birthed, it shouldn’t be lost that creator Vince Gilligan pulled off what seemed impossible when the series was first announced: making Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman a character with such a rich and complex backstory that it (along with Bob Odenkirk‘s portrayal) allowed the show to both live off the memory of Breaking Bad (with so many characters appearing in both series — including DEA agent Hank in the new season!) but also thrive in its own right, something maybe not seen on such a level since Frasier followed up Cheers.
I know I look forward, after the fabulous attention to detail and closure for the Walter White character in the first show’s final season, to seeing what Gilligan comes up with for Jimmy/Saul closing chapter. Personally, I’ve always hoped for a more extended look at the in-hiding “Cinnabon years” (and how Saul’s story “ends”) in the series’ final stretch, but I’m more than willing to accept wherever Gilligan decides to go with things. While there might still be untapped drama to extract from the Breaking Bad universe (a show about the rise of a young Gus Fring?) it’s probably best for Gilligan, having already pulled off a near “miracle” — Saul will end up having one more episode than Bad, which feels a bit mind boggling — to simply bring things to a proper close and not tempt fate again when it comes to possibly “messing with the memory” of these characters and the reality he created in which they so thrived. — Todd S
Matt Roush: I agree with all of this. Better Call Saul exceeded anyone’s expectations, especially since at the time it felt like a less-is-more character like Saul was the last person we’d want to spend this much time with. But then, we hadn’t yet met him as Jimmy McGill, or his brother Chuck, or soulmate Kim, etc. As a tragicomic character study, this has been a tour de force for Bob Odenkirk, and while I don’t subscribe to the notion that Saul is anywhere near as memorable or powerful a series as Breaking Bad, it’s so much more than just a spinoff. I also agree that this is the right time to start preparing the endgame, and once that has been accomplished, it’s time to move on. Although I could also envision Gilligan returning to this world, the way Faulkner did to his Yoknapatawpha County or as Scott Turow continues doing in his Kindle County book series, to find new avenues for storytelling. (Still, given the mixed response to El Camino, maybe it’s better to just let it go.)
Will Warrior Live to Fight On?
Question: I was wondering what you make out of Cinemax’s decision to stop producing scripted originals and if that will also mean the end of Warrior, a great show by the creator of Banshee, based on the writings of Bruce Lee. The second season is already in the can, but with Cinemax ceasing to produce originals, the question remains when it will air and whether there is any kind of future for it beyond the second season, with HBO Max having rejected the idea of taking over any of the Cinemax brand. Would be sad for such a fun, pulpy piece of historical fiction to come to a premature end solely due to corporate reshuffling. — Sascha
Matt Roush: In the bigger picture, I’m not surprised about the decision regarding Cinemax originals, especially given the push for HBO Max, which is clearly the corporate priority. (Although given how deep the HBO Max well appears to be, why there wouldn’t be room for something as buzzy as Warrior is beyond me.) While I’ve enjoyed Banshee, The Knick and a few others, Cinemax always felt like an outlier in the premium space, and it never really seemed like it was building much of a brand besides being HBO’s unruly, scruffy cousin. As for Warrior itself, I imagine much like the upcoming final season of Strike Back that it will eventually air, since it has been filmed. Beyond that, either the WarnerMedia execs will have to decide to make an exception with Cinemax’s highest-profile original or it starting looking for a new home (as it has been reported that Cinemax’s in-limbo Jett is now doing).
Not Laughing at Will & Grace
Question: We watched the last two episodes of Will & Grace and have just one question: WTF happened? We’ve heard rumors of fighting between Megan Mullally and Debra Messing, but man, does that mean the show loses its funny? — Sandi
Matt Roush: This whole final season has been a mess, feeling once again like a show that had gone past its prime — which wasn’t the case when the revival started up a few years ago. (In retrospect, returning for one shining season might have been enough.) The dueling baby storylines for Will and Grace aren’t the least bit funny or appealing, and hit its nadir when they competed for a slot at a prestigious pre-school. (When has that plot ever been amusing?) Karen owning a baseball team has added exactly nothing to the mix. I don’t know anything about the so-called feud, though have heard there will be a few episodes in which Karen is altogether MIA. (All things considered, not such a loss.) If I didn’t already have such a history of watching the once-groundbreaking comedy that I feel compelled to follow it to the end, the recent episode in which Grace trashed her sort-of-boyfriend’s apartment after fouling his bathroom was in such poor taste that even my DVR is looking askance at me for keeping this show on the playlist.
The Kids Are Not All Right
Question: I watched Outmatched Thursday night and it is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen! May it die a sudden death, never to be heard from again. If I had ever spoken to my parents the way those kids did … — Lesley
Matt Roush: While I tend to stop short of death wishes, I understand where you’re coming from. My own mini-blurb preview (all it deserved) also acknowledged how obnoxious the smarty-pants kids were, and their clueless parents aren’t much better. Basically, Outmatched is one of those hard-on-the-ears sitcoms where it all feels so artificial you begin to understand why so many have turned away from this form of comedy, even when it works. (Mom, anyone?)
Gray Areas on Grey’s
Question: So I finally returned to Grey’s Anatomy. I actually watched the Station 19-Grey’s Anatomy crossover and for once I didn’t find Station 19 completely annoying. (Miracles do happen.) More importantly, I don’t think I suffered by missing the first half of the Grey’s season. But I don’t necessarily like that Karev has been shipped off to Iowa. He’s been an anchor for SO LONG I wish we would get better closure. Jo doesn’t exactly seem perturbed by the fact he’s in Iowa, at least not yet. The last time someone “disappeared” was when Preston Burke skedaddled, but we all knew the behind-the-scenes story on that one. It just seems odd to not give Karev a proper send—off. — Veronica
Matt Roush: As I’ve said before on this subject, there’s still time to give Alex the send-off the character deserves, but it will still rankle if it’s true that his last episode has already aired. And someone still needs to explain why they rushed it if that’s indeed the case, and it doesn’t have to descend to the level of gossip. Creatively, it just doesn’t make sense. You may also be right that you didn’t miss that much by sitting out what has been an uneven season — the show has yet to recover from the stupid twist of firing so many top docs, and the whole Pac-North messiness — but I still find compensating pleasures, especially these days in the Schmitt-Nico relationship and a few others.
Question: Am I the only one who groaned when Maggie was served on Grey’s Anatomy for her cousin’s wrongful death? We just got out of a storyline where Meredith’s fitness to practice medicine came into legal question. I get that the circumstances surrounding Maggie’s lawsuit are different, but I’m beyond bored with this. We know nothing will happen to prevent the main characters on this show from practicing medicine, because if it did there wouldn’t be a show. This has already been one of the most tiresome seasons in recent memory and this development didn’t improve things. The best thing about last week’s episode, by a lot, was Chandra Wilson‘s performance in the aftermath of Bailey’s miscarriage. Otherwise, the episode didn’t do a whole lot for me. — Jake
Matt Roush: Yes, Poor Maggie. Anything involving her character tends to feel like piling on, especially this season — the break-up with Jackson still doesn’t make any sense — but also as always, Bailey saves the day, as she has from the beginning of the series. While there’s obviously no Grey’s Anatomy without Meredith, I would argue that ever losing Bailey would be another blow from which the show would have trouble recovering. Let’s hope it never comes to that.
Question: In June, I enjoyed The Butcher. Will it ever come back? — Pat
Matt Roush: To be perfectly honest, I had to look this one up. (There is officially too much TV, especially in the reality space.) This six-episode butchering competition series aired early last summer on, of all places, History. At present time, the channel hasn’t announced plans for renewal, which in this genre isn’t exactly the same as being axed, so to speak. More like a “to be determined” at this point, until there’s actual news. [Editor’s Note: After posting this column, History responded with an update that The Butcher will NOT be back for a second season. Animals everywhere are heaving a sigh of relief.]
That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. Please include a first name with your question.